Green balls

Some daft survey conducted by “marketing specialists” CECI, has decided the greenest location in Britain is Redland closely followed by Clifton, a report in the very slow news pages of today’s Observer says.

It’s not very clear how they worked this out but we’re now supposed to believe that the wealthiest people with the biggest houses, the biggest cars, the most white goods, the most computers, the most hi-tech gadgets, who go on the most holidays and fly the most are really, really green because they express some concern about it in surveys .

Go figure.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol West, Clifton, Environment, Media, Redland and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Green balls

  1. Chris Hutt says:

    It’s quite simple really.

    Redland and Clifton are the ‘nicest’ areas so the people with the biggest incomes tend to live there.

    Because they have the biggest incomes they tend to spend the most money.

    Because they spend the most money they do the most environmental damage.

    Because they do the most environmental damage they feel the most guilt.

    And because they feel the most guilt they make the most gestures towards being green.

  2. Paul Smith says:

    surely that would put stoke bishop at the top of the green tree

  3. Chris Hutt says:

    That’s true, concern for the environment is not purely a function of disposable income. It depends on other stuff too like social attitudes and peer group pressures. But I still think there’s a measure of truth in what I said.

    If you’re living on a low income you often can’t afford the luxury of considering green’ options anyway. Low price wins through every time.

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    But are the green options greener than the low income options or just better marketed?

    If you can’t afford a car then walking or taking the bus is greener than any brand new ‘green’ car isn’t it?

    Likewise clothes from a charity shop are greener than brand new organic hemp hippy shit aren’t they?

  5. Chris Hutt says:

    Yes, I’d go along with most of that. Basically the less money you spend the less environmental damage you do, and vice versa.

    Not travelling much at all beats trains, trams or buses any day. In fact public transport can be very fuel inefficient due to low occupancy rates, especially when subsidised. Also living in a smaller house or flat means less heating, but living alone is less fuel efficient; etc.

    ‘Green’ products may be produced and marketed in low volumes for niche markets which is generally inefficient including in energy terms, so mass market items bought from supermarkets may actually be ‘greener’.

    The whole thing is very complicated and anything but transparent so the consumer might as well just go for the best value for money. As often as not that will also be the ‘greenest’ option.

    There’s a simply way of resolving all that complexity of course, but who wants a solution when so many people are doing nicely living on the back of the ‘problem’?

  6. Rosso Verde says:

    perhaps “green” refers to plush lawns rather than ecological things?
    Certainly the “trendy” rich are more had a bigger carbon footprint than poorer people.

  7. Your post is spot on BB. The conclusion of the Observer piece seems to sum up the situation well,

    ‘…people who claimed to have the greenest lifestyles were often some of the main culprits behind global warming. Stewart Barr, who led the research, told the Guardian: ‘Green living is largely something of a myth.’

    This conclusion contradicts the title of the piece ‘Found – Britain’s Greenest Location’ since its saying that green living is a myth.

    There was a survey earlier in the year which showed that less well off people in the UK were more inclined to put the environment ahead of the economy than the better off (56% compared to 47%). If people in better off areas really put the environment ahead of the economy instead of wringing their hands then perhaps their footprints would be lower!

  8. BB, you said

    ‘But are the green options greener than the low income options or just better marketed?’

    The examples of taking a bus and shopping in charity shops that you give are really good ones. Often the so-called ‘green’ option is nowhere near as green as consuming less or differently in the first place!!

    However, there is solid evidence favouring certain green products, making it worth paying the initial higher cost (because it saves money in the medium and long run) eg energy efficient light bulbs…

  9. Jozer says:

    The sort of well-offs who live in Stoke Bishop probably couldn’t care less. The Redland & Clifton posse like to think they are the best thing that happened to the world.

    It’s all b****x though, isn’t it?

    6 billion people living anything other than a caveman existence is going to cause problems, which we can but deal with as best we are able to.

  10. Dona Qixota says:

    Got to agree with everyone, this Guardian article is self-contradictory tosh.

    What is this anyway – “slap a green toff” week or something? There’s now huge amounts of propaganda effort being put into persuading the public that “being green” is all about being “visionary” and mouthing high-minded clap-trap rather than the simple realities of how much and what you consume and the impact that has on the ecosystem. Couldn’t be anything to do with the business-as-usual scenario our leaders are desperately trying to maintain, could it?

    “They seem to do more things for the environment”. This is nonsense. Doing a lot LESS, especially if it was these As and Bs – now that definitely would benefit the environment They could go meditate quietly in their gardens for the next couple of years. That’d help.

  11. Chris Hutt says:

    Probably the best thing anyone can do for the environment is not have children. I do feel that we should acknowledge the ‘contribution’ of those that don’t and perhaps stop subsidising those that do. There are far too many people in the world, especially in the UK.

  12. Dona Qixota says:

    Aah, it’s all too obvious, Chris, but you’re not allowed to say it.

    Simple equation really. The more of us there are, the less space and most other resources there are to go round (pace Esther Boserup).

    What’s funny nowadays are the people you meet who say “well! I don’t have any children, so I can just go ahead and consume as much as I like”. Also that you never hear it the other way around.

  13. Redland Green Enthusiast says:

    Cor blimey, you lot really are bitter. I think the article is quite balanced. Nobody has mentioned the people from Basildon at the other end of the spectrum. They are on low incomes and do the least for the environment.

    True that wealthy people consume more but if you took some time to think about the points raised rather than just mouth the bits that confirm your cranky prejudices you might realise something.

    Money makes the world go around even while it is warming up. The energy problem — how we power our consumption without enforcing global warming — is caused by the price of things not reflecting their true costs. There are plenty of clean sources of energy available, it is just their relative cost to dirty fuel is very high.

    The CACI report shows the kinds of people who would be most willing to pay those extra costs. A lot of them live in Redland. It is the Basildonians who won’t pay the costs. 6 billion low-income people who cannot afford to care will cause more damage than high-income people who can.

    So all you noble paupers need to think on that.

    And you may not have the motivations to have children. Fine. But to say that not having them is somehow worthy is frankly dim.

    Two points: 1) children are the glue that keeps society together. If we wake up tomorrow and reproduction was somehow impossible, why should people continue to cooperate with each other? The underlying reasons for society would have gone.

    2) A stable population should be the goal. Population growth is highest in places were low incomes remove control over people’s lives.

    Please don’t fall into the trap that everyone but you is somehow unable to grasp the big picture. The world’s a messy place. Live with it.

  14. Chris Hutt says:

    RGE, so that’s “blame the poor”, right? Now where have we heard that before?

  15. Des Bowring says:

    Well said Chris.

    The consumption of beer must be low in Redland though – not enough decent pubs!

  16. Spectator says:

    “Money makes the world go around”

    Er, no it doesn’t.

    Is this one of your “cranky prejudices”, or a sign that the bottom hasn’t competely dropped out of the Great British Bullshit market yet?

  17. Redland Green Enthusiast says:

    Hutt, no I’m not saying blame the poor — I’m pointing out how environmental problems will be solved.

    The answer is not to make everyone poor. It is to give people the ability to do the right thing.

    Your point: “Because they spend the most money they do the most environmental damage.” is a total crock of shit without any foundation other than the precariously constructed version of class war that is chiefly being fought in your mind.

    My arguments refute yours and so you are falling back on a tired vision of social divides.

  18. ‘Your point: “Because they spend the most money they do the most environmental damage.” is a total crock of shit without any foundation ‘

    No, I’m afraid its a fact in general terms. Look at the figures for footprints. Generally, higher spending means higher consumption means higher footprint.

    Sounds like a person defending higher spending and higher comsumption to me!

  19. Redland Green Enthusiast says:

    Spectator, it is an expression. And a valid one. How much can you do without any money?

    Also nothing to do with bullshit. Perhaps you misunderstood a reference to that on posts elsewhere. Or were you just trying to be offensive?

    Also I don’t think you can be prejudiced — crankily or otherwise—about expressions. So, good one, your post failed to make any tangible point.

    Yours is a good name by the way. It seems there is a lot of carping from the sidelines on postings here. Nothing like identifying a problem and then making the necessary changes. Nothing like it at all…

  20. Redland Green Enthusiast says:

    Blimey Vowles. Wouldn’t it depend on what you spent it on. Jeez! The CACI report shows that money from Redland is more likely to be directed at sustainable products. If a product is carbon-neutral then you can buy as much of them as you like. Spend squillions and still prove Hutt wrong at the same time. Can’t be bad. In any case I would suggest that a great deal of the extra money earned in Redland is spent just to live there. The left overs would often not amount to much more than many other people.

    I’m attempting to make the link between social attitudes, economic drivers and environmental behaviours, but all many of you are interested in is having your own views reflected back at you.

  21. Chris Hutt says:

    RGE “…were you just trying to be offensive?”

    Anxious to avoid being offensive are you RGE? Well didn’t anyone tell you it’s rude to address someone solely by their surname? And what about dismissing my argument as “a total crock of shit”? Isn’t that a bit offensive? Or does that only apply when you imagine someone is being offensive towards you, as with your ‘bullshit’ comment?

    On this forum we can either be civil or rude to each other. I’d just as soon be civil, but if you want to make it rude, remember it cuts both ways.

  22. Creative Industrialist says:

    I fully applaud RGE mainly because I’m the same person. I’m interested in the final quote from the Observer article from the Exeter prof saying that green lifestyles are often a sham. Indeed who people buy organic, don’t use plastic bags and recycle everything that moves believe that they are being green. It is debatable whether any of that has any net benefit. But being a green enthusiast makes them open to really beneficial moves — ones that will cost them — and everyone else. For example, a congestion charge in Bristol city centre. That represents a true cost, a tax on consumption in all but name, that could reduce the emissions of the city. Will it be the Redland folk and their ilk who oppose it and everyone else who wants it?

  23. Creative Industrialist says:

    Sorry Chris Hutt, I was ranting. You are right. I apologise.

  24. Chris Hutt says:

    Let’s look at the figures for the response from your precious Redland on the Residents’ Parking proposals (which you can see via the link below).

    One zone in Redland had 50% support while the adjacent one had only 13%. Taken together the level of support is about average for the inner city so that undermines your argument.

    In any case Congestion Charging (which is a dead duck after Manchester) would only have a marginal affect on pollution. It’s primary purpose is to price the poor off the roads to make way for the rich, which I suppose you would think is ‘green’.

  25. Creative Industrialist says:

    Chris H, you are conflating two issues. Buying space to park on your street is not the same as paying to use your car. People who live on roads with few parking issues are not likely to vote for a CPZ — unless cars move out of a CPZ nearby to create parking problems…

    I said yes to the question: Can you normally park your car on your street. No to “Do you want a CPZ” — after all why? and Yes to “If the next area has a CPZ and the parking gets bad, will you change your mind” — Well “framed” questions I’m sure you will agree.

    The green component of a CPZ would be to discourage people driving into the inner city from out of town and then walking / busing the last bit. If that is the case why not issue residents with 1 free permit? Extra cars get charged and out of towners have to pay.

    But a CPZ is a completely different thing to a congestion charge. CPZ or not, a resident who leaves the car on the street unused most of the time is being green in that respect.

    The point of a congestion charge is to make car travel less attractive. Petrolheads who love there cars will pay to drive in them a lot. People who are late will pay more to get there quicker. Whatever the reason, the charge impacts the decision to get into the car.

    As usual you can’t resist framing it in Spart terms. The point about the rich and poor applies to all commodities, all products and every single financial transaction. If space on a road is given a price then people with a lot of money will be able to buy more of it. That applies to oranges and aircraft carriers too. The fact that is was free at the point of use previously does not mean it cannot now be priced per use as well. You make the same point about parking spaces yourself.

    Of course a congestion charge is not a panacea but it might allow large areas of the central roads to be rededicated to other mass transit. It’ll take a bit of vision and a lot of money. To keep it on subject: CACI say that people in Redland would be more likely to agree to pay for it than anyone else in the country. How dare they, with all their money earned by working long hours in high-skilled jobs for years on end!

  26. Spectator says:

    “How much can you do without any money?”

    A lot, in many ways.

    Remember….Homo sapiens has been evolving quite OK for a few hundreds of thousands of years before what we know as “money”.

    The main problem is that the modern monetary system is a social construct which is mostly about power and control. Control of the many who are largely excluded, by the few who create and manipulate financial movements. A kind of black magic if you like. This is what makes it a lot more difficult to do bigger stuff with little or no money, because you are held in place by the money control system, eg the fact that most of the land is owned by a very few people, the hand to mouth existence of jobs and bills that most people are forced to lead in contrast to the privileged few who manipulate the cybermoney by the millions to live how they want to live, and so on.

  27. Chris Hutt says:

    Congestion Charging and Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) are closely associated and have similar objectives, namely to deter people from driving in to the city centre (or other ‘trip generating’ focus). A Congestion Charge inner cordon would require CPZs around it , so CPZs are being pursued in anticipation of Congestion Charging.

    Another stated purpose of residential CPZs is to control parking to allow for better conditions for walking and cycling, perhaps including 20 mph zones. That is something you would expect ‘greens’ to support, but not much in Redland it seems.

    The fact that you, RGE/CI, voted against a CPZ for Redland rather proves the point that much interest in ‘green’ options is superficial and soon evaporates when it gets down to something that might actually make a real difference.

    Thanks for the lesson in market economics. I never realised that rich people could buy more things than poor people.

  28. Creative Industrialist says:

    CH. Sorry I don’t understand. How is controlling resident’s parking green? The cars are there already — often in such numbers that a parking charge would do nothing to fix the problem.

    The residents’ cars have not arrived from outside. Surely the green point is to keep them parked. I understand that a congestion charge would lead to cars from further out being parked on the edge of the zone. Sure keep them off the main roads and make ’em pay to park elsewhere — but that is not what I was asked to vote on, is it? If the reason for the CPZ is to get some money in to pay for a better street environment and to go towards transit improvements — along with a putative congestion charge — then the councils should make that full case. Do you agree?

    No problem with the market economics lesson. Just that some of the comments don’t seem to take them into account.

    Spectator. Money is a social construct, indeed. We humans are full of them. As for money being used by the few to control the many, have you ever stopped to think what it would be like without it? If anything money has led to a more equitable society. Without it the few would control the many with other, much more horrible ways.

  29. Chris Hutt says:

    We are told that the main objective of CPZs for residential areas is to deter commuter parking. For many commuters deprived of free parking near their place of work it may no longer be financially viable to drive to work, so they may use public transport instead, or cycle, or park further out and cycle, or whatever. So in that respect CPZs are ‘green’.

    CPZs also require that residents who want to park on the street pay a little for the privilege, which will fund parking enforcement which will eliminate illegal parking which obstructs footways, cycle lanes, junctions and pedestrian crossings, so making walking and cycling more attractive. Another respect in which CPZs are ‘green’.

    CPZs will restrict the amount of parking available within the zone which may mean that only one or two permits are available per household. This will impact on the level of car ownership, especially in shared houses and flats. That too could be considered to be a ‘green’ outcome.

    On top of the restriction on parking it may be possible to introduce other traffic management or ‘calming’ measures which will serve to make the streets in the zone even more pedestrian and cycle friendly, yet another way in which CPZs could be said to be ‘green’.

    So overall there is plenty of evidence that CPZs have a good claim to be ‘green’ , at least compared to the ‘do nothing’ scenario (though not as ‘green’ as my fantasy ‘crush-all-cars’ scenario). It is unfortunate (but not surprising) that the Council failed to identify and promote such positive aspects in its consultation exercise.

  30. RGE – ‘Blimey Vowles. Wouldn’t it depend on what you spent it on. Jeez! The CACI report shows that money from Redland is more likely to be directed at sustainable products.

    Yes RGE it does depend this to some extent but you appear not to have thought this through fully. Consuming a few ‘green products’ is a very poor substitute for not consuming or consuming differently in terms of cutting footprints. There are very few products around the consumption of which actually cuts your footprint!

    Remember that footprints in wealthier areas are known to higher and that consumption of high impact products is still high along with so-called sustainable products. Remember also that there is a mass of ‘green product hype’ out there that we have far to few good benchmarks for and that the article concludes by says that green living is largely a myth !!

  31. Creative Industrialist says:

    Christ Hutt: I think we agree. The council presented the CPZ as a means to help locals park more easily. Parking may be tight but it is not a problem of such magnitude that it needs a permit system. However, a scheme that you and I have independently described would be worth it. BTW I don’t drive anyway and my wife’s car is parked for 90 percent of the time.

    Vowles: I said carbon neutral products. Let’s pretend that such things existed — if that was all you consumed your footprint (carbon I assume) would be zero, although I despair of the shonky assumptions in the models used. I don’t dispute that people in Redland potentially have a larger footprint than people elsewhere in the city — due to foreign hols and big houses blah blah. The CACI report says that very thing. The point of the article is that they are green because they are more likely to agree with green actions. They subscribe to phoney green practices already. They are likely to spend their money on real green ones (if the council actually did something).

    Now, you say that one truly green step is to curb consumption. I agree, but it seems to me that mechanism you are advocating is that products should remain inexpensive so low earners can get what they need. But that low price would still not reflect the true costs to the environment. In the meantime high earners should just buy the minimum irrespective of what they can afford. Will that ever work? And how does that solve the resources problem? It merely slows the process but does not reverse it. Surely the way to curb consumption in a meaningful way would be to have products priced correctly (with tarrifs probably) and inevitably priced higher to cover the costs of environmental damage now and in the future. Everyone would consume less and pay their way. The divide between rich and poor would remain I’m afraid. But is that the real target?

  32. Chris Hutt says:

    CI, your market solution would work very well and has the great merit of simplicity and transparency. No need for anyone to worry their heads trying to reconcile price with ‘greenness’, because the price would include a payment to cover the environmental damage.

    As you say the rich/poor thing is another issue but if a market solution is to be acceptable to a broad majority (not just those wealthy enough to be able to afford it easily) then the impact of increased prices on the poor has to be addressed.

    Personally I think that means making society work better for poorer people, so that not having money doesn’t mean being excluded. So for example more investment in the public realm, the realm we share, rather than the private realm.

    One example of that would be making our streets and public spaces more pedestrian and cycle friendly, more sociable and less degraded by traffic. Above all we must make living without a car an attractive option.

  33. Dona Qixota says:

    RGE/CI wrote:

    “Surely the green point is to keep them parked”

    “my wife’s car is parked for 90 percent of the time”

    “If a product is carbon-neutral then you can buy as much of them as you like.”

    “I said carbon neutral products … if that was all you consumed your footprint (carbon I assume) would be zero”

    RGE/CI – you appear to be labouring under grave misapprehensions about what “being green” or “environmentally friendly” actually means.

    1. Parked cars are far from environmentally neutral. They are environmentally damaging for several reasons, including the cradle to grave impact, deterioration while parked, and the fact that that they are demanding land and taking up space which could otherwise be put to much more important uses such as children playing, green-space and food growing.

    2. Even if a product is called “carbon neutral” (whatever that really means) this only relates to one single aspect of the socio-environmental crisis we are facing. The hard fact is that virtually all products are the cause of a multitude of other serious forms of environmental and ecological damage such as habitat destruction or pollution of water during throughout production, use and disposal.

  34. I agree strongly with Dona, who is spot on again!

    RGE/CI – only part of the total footprint is the carbon footprint. Many have become ‘carbon obsessed’. People are increasingly aware of and concerned about the ‘water footprint’ of products for instance:

    Dona has already indicated other types of impact, some of which a footprint does not measure at all! A green approach to assessment/measurement should be broad-based.

    In any case you are just dreaming about carbon neutral products. How many are out there? How do we know for sure how genuine any such claims are??

    You seem to be attributing a particular mechanism or solution to me. Actually in this discussion I’ve not touched on this much…. I think the key is to enable and empower individuals and local communities to meet their own needs as much as possible and this means massive investment and decentralisation. Chris touched on this to some extent when he referred to ‘…more investment in the public realm, the realm we share, rather than the private realm.

    One example of that would be making our streets and public spaces more pedestrian and cycle friendly, more sociable and less degraded by traffic. ‘

    Its not just about money but everything that relates to power.

  35. Ella says:

    Parked cars are far from environmentally neutral. They are environmentally damaging for several reasons, including the cradle to grave impact, deterioration while parked, and the fact that that they are demanding land and taking up space which could otherwise be put to much more important uses such as children playing, green-space and food growing.

    That’s a bit of a fallacy because, come on, realistically you are not going to create a children’s playing area in a metre and a half across from the pavement. Most cars are obviously parked in this position. Personally, I’d rather that hideous Cabot Circus carpark was a giant allotment or a snazzy little park. Other than obvious exceptions like that, most parked cars generally take up space on the edge of roads.

  36. Chris Hutt says:

    Ella, the space at the side of the road which you presume to be of little value other than for parking is generally where cyclists could safely pass without finding themselves competing for space with other road users.

    On-street parking, which is incidentally illegal in that it obstructs the highway, is a major obstacle to making Bristol cycle friendly. By taking the space that would most logically be assigned to slower moving vehicles like cyclists, motorists force cyclists into conflict, either with pedestrians on the footway or with faster motor traffic on the remaining width of road.

  37. Dona Qixota says:

    Carfree streets and pavements USED to be great play spaces for kids, only a few decades ago, until too many adults decided that their cars are more important than childrens’ freedom and health. Obviously it’s not just an issue of one car taking up the space – it’s the cumulative effect of all the thousands and thousands of them that are now cluttering up the place. If the cars weren’t there we don’t even have to dig up the road, all we would have to do is get some frames together and start creating soil from food waste, grass cuttings, woodchips etc., and then growing plants. Many people are already doing this sort of thing – the more the merrier.

  38. Ella says:

    Yeah I thought what both of you are saying. I was also thinking that the point is that the collective area taken up by all parked cars is the point. However the actual objective experience of parked cars are that of taking up a bit of road space. Also some people do genuinely need their cars, I know some people who without them would be in awful positions and they need somewhere to keep them if they don’t have drives.

  39. Chris Hutt says:

    The reason that some people, indeed many people, genuinely need their cars is because we have adapted our lives and society itself around car ownership. Had we instead adapted our lives and society around not owning a car we would find that no one ‘needed’ one, at least in urban areas.

    We still have that choice, although it’s a more difficult transition than ever before due to the level of car dependence. But it isn’t going to get any easier so we might as well recognise that there is no future is mass car ownership and start turning the supertanker around.

  40. SteveL says:

    I am enjoying this discussion and should mention that the Bristol Traffic project will soon be taking advantage of the fact that people earning the most have the most to give up, by creating a CO2 offset service for such people. Every family who goes skiing in the Alps by overnight train instead of in a range rover saves a lot of CO2, something we could use CO2 offsets to manage. Of course, people who only have a small car -or none- won’t benefit from such an offset, because they have nothing to lose.

  41. Chris Hutt says:

    Steve, before you advocate carbon offsetting you might like to check out which I think neatly exposes that for the fraud it is.

    Traveling by train has environmental impacts too and it’s only thanks to French nuclear reactors and electrified TGV lines that you can claim a low carbon footprint for a trip to the Alps. But the leg from Bristol to London on HSTs belts out the CO2.

    In energy terms a smallish car may do the job more efficiently and much cheaper, if you get the occupancy levels right. Plus you’d be stopping overnight and to eat, so putting something into the local economies that you pass through. Best not to travel at all though.

  42. State Pension says:

    “Probably the best thing anyone can do for the environment is not have children. I do feel that we should acknowledge the ‘contribution’ of those that don’t and perhaps stop subsidising those that do. There are far too many people in the world, especially in the UK.”

    Chris Hutt, what an alarming comment! Anyone who knows their economics knows what folly your suggestion would be.

  43. Chris Hutt says:

    SP, please explain how not having children is so anti-social?

    But please note that I’m not saying that nobody should have children (as RGE seemed to think), only that those that don’t should be recognised as making a valuable contribution to environmental sustainability.

  44. Ella says:

    That would freak any rational person out. There is something historically disturbing, and rightly so, about any kind of recognition about having (or not having) children.

  45. Chris Hutt says:

    Rational? Anything but, I would say. Having children (or not) has all sorts of emotional, religious and social resonances so that it’s almost impossible to have a rational discussion about it, as I think reactions here are showing.

    Just for the record, I have two children, so I’m not claiming any moral high ground myself.

  46. Technorino says:

    Lol nice post 😀 very concise!

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